We don’t see a lot in the Bible about Jonathan. But what we do see is awesome. Jonathan was selfless. He was brave. He was compassionate. And he was faithful. And in my reading today I came across something that I hadn’t noticed before about Jonathan. He cared that the job got done. But he didn’t really seem to care about who got the credit for it. Here’s the example:
Now Saul chose for himself 3,000 men of Israel, of which 2,000 were with Saul in Michmash and in the hill country of Bethel, while 1,000 were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. But he sent away the rest of the people, each to his tent. Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout thel land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” All Israel heard the news that Saul had smitten the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines. The people were then summonded to Saul at Gilgal. – 1 Samuel 13:2-4, NASB
Saul is the commander of forces and in a move that’s not unusual, he takes the larger force. That’s typical because if Saul falls, so then does the king of Israel fall to the enemy. Jonathan has half the troops of Saul but pulls off a victory against the garrison in Geba. As a result, the Israelites have caught the notice of the Philistines. No longer are the Israelites some group that can be pushed around. And if you read further in chapter 13, you come to realize that they did so even though they had far worse equipment than the Philistines did (see verses 19-22). And in case anyone suspects that this is a one time thing, another victory at Jonathan’s hand can be found in chapter 14. So Jonathan proved himself to be a capable leader and tactician on the battlefield. Therefore, we probably shouldn’t be surprised at his victory at Geba. It’s just part of the evidence which reveals what kind of man Jonathan was.
I think what’s more telling, though, is that Jonathan, so far as we know, didn’t rise up objections to his father Saul getting the credit for the victory at Geba. Now this is an area we need to tread carefully when it comes to Scripture. When Scripture is silent, we can’t automatically assume anything. But when we look in chapter 14, just prior to Jonathan going on the attack, we see him saying the following:
Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.” – 1 Samuel 14:6, NASB
Jonathan knew who determined the outcome of the battle. It wasn’t Jonathan; it was God. As a result, it is likely that the reason Jonathan didn’t make a big deal out of who got credit for the initial victory was because Jonathan knew it wasn’t his. Credit for that victory belonged to God, too. It is typical that the commanding general gets the credit for the work his men do. And certainly that would have been the case here. So from an eathly perspective, the overall victory goes to Saul. And from a spiritual perspective, the actual victor is God. There wasn’t a place for Jonathan to step and say, “I did this,” because that wouldn’t fit with what we know about Jonathan.
So let’s sum all this up. Saul gets credit for Jonathan’s victory. And Jonathan, so far as we see in Scripture, doesn’t say anything to the negative. But later on we see Jonathan acknowleding that it is God who determines victory or defeat. This would seem to indicate that Jonathan doesn’t care about the credit. He cares about serving the Lord and following where his faith leads him. The whole excursion in chapter 14 is a testament to faith. He looks for certain signs from God that he should attack. Him and his armor bearer. And they get those signs and though they are just two men, they attack the enemy camp and the Philistines can’t stand before those two. The might of these two men cause the Philistines to become fearful (if two men can slay twenty in the initial charge, what can the rest of the Israelite force do?), the rest of the Israelites pick up on what’s going on and those with Saul attack and those who had been allied with the Philistines turn and fight against their former allies. And though later the men of Israel give credit to Jonathan, he made it clear who he believed decided the day long before he even started the attack.
So the point of all this is it shouldn’t matter to us who gets the credit. What matters is we serve God as He calls us, we give the credit to Him ourselves, and that’s that. If others acknowledge the wrong person when we were the ones serving, let God deal with that. The one who counts, God, knows the truth. And really, it’s by His power that we accomplish anything in the first place. So there’s nothing for us to take credit for. It’s all about Him. Jonathan understood this. That’s probably one reason he was such a fierce and devoted man of God. As for us, there will be plenty of time for credit in eternity. And it’ll be given to us by God Himself. The credit from our fellow man is temporary. It doesn’t last forever. So let us put it aside and focus on serving and obeying God. Let us take Jonathan’s example and be able to experience the victories of the battles He wins in our lives.